*All proceeds go directly to benefit the organization Bring Change 2 Mind*
My mother and I never held hands. In 2013, while packing up her house of ten years in New York City for a move to California, this changed for a quick unforgettable moment. She grabbed my hand firmly and said, “Shane, I want you to be there when I die.” I was shaken and confused. I had no idea what she was referencing or for what reason. When I returned home to Boston, where I was then living, I wrote this song to process the feelings that came from her words. At the time, it was a fictional account of her death and a presupposition of the feelings I would endure. I was completely unaware of what her words foreshadowed. I did not know that in the months following the recording of this song, my mother would enter a state of heavy anxiety, which would result in a surprising series of depressive breaks and hospitalization in several institutions.
On January 5th, 2014, after four months of attempts, my mother took her own life. This was six months after I had recorded this song, Beige Flowers. As an anchor for both her family and community, she had often been the one that others turned to for advice, help, and consolation—she was calm amidst the many hardships of life. But when faced with the reality of her depression, my mother was quick to dismiss her so-called “weakness” to those who might have been able to help her. Not even her closest confidants knew the extent of what she was experiencing. She, like so many, was afraid of the stigmas that would result in letting her true pain be known. So instead the pain baked until it was at a critical state. My mother, like many who deal with mental illness, was an extremely creative person: she created her own heaven with the support of her health, and then created her own hell with the support of her illness.
Until now, this song has felt “too real” to release. But conversation is where real change can begin. I never expected my mother to die shortly after I wrote this song or to ever die in the way she did. In truth, I don’t think she or anyone she knew expected it either. She was always regarded as someone with a strong mind. Yet, illness takes even the healthiest of us sometimes. We all know someone who is dealing with mental illness. This person may not be brave enough to talk about it. My mother had no outlet to safely express her troubles. Stigmas that surround mental illness are far-reaching and debilitating. Those who suffer from it fear judgment, the loss of friends, work, education, and so much more. And yet the brain—like any other part of the body—is an organ that can also become sick. The problem with our current cultural views on mental health, in my experience, seems to be the fact that the stigmas surrounding it make it much too difficult to discuss candidly. With many other diseases, people are encouraged to notice symptoms, ask the proper questions, and then have the possibility of receiving treatment long before the illness reaches a higher stage. In the case of mental illness, we often don’t talk about it until it’s too late. My wish is that we can move closer to having open conversations surrounding mental health.
All of the proceeds from this release will benefit the unique organization Bring Change 2 Mind. This is one of very few mental health organizations that deal specifically with addressing mental illness stigma in our contemporary culture. Through workshops, school programs, PSAs, and continuous research into beginning and continuing conversations surrounding mental health, this organization provides a much-needed service for our times. I hope that you will listen to the song, share it, and if you feel moved to, contribute to this cause.
- Shane Butler